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Anti-social media leads to student suicide

The dark side of social media leads to suicide.

Zeitgeist recently commented on the mini-furore surrounding Justin Bieber‘s attempts to gain revenge on a ‘fan’ who had obtained his phone number after hacking someones Twitter account.

Bieber’s actions caused a storm in a tea-cup, much inconvenience to his nemesis and a not inconsiderable phone bill.

Upon our trawl of recent news Zeitgeist was saddened to learn of another example of social media being used maliciously in an instance that exacted a much higher price.

Pranks have long been part of university life and last week at the prestigious Rutgers University in New Jersey, a student set up a live stream of his room-mate engaged in an intimate encounter. For many friends it may be been a jape to be avenged. Unfortunately, the victim in this instance was a painfully shy 18 year old musician. And his companion was male.

His victim was called Tyler Clementi and three days after the broadcast he committed suicide by jumping into the River Hudson from the George Washington Bridge.

His roommate, Dharun Ravi, who started the episode by tweeting

“Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

and another classmate, Molly Wei have both been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy, which could see them spending 5 years in prison.

“We are profoundly saddened by this report, and our hearts and prayers are with the parents, family, and friends of this young man, who had started at Rutgers this semester as a first-year student on the New Brunswick campus,” wrote university president, Richard McCormick, in a letter to students. “If the charges are true, these actions gravely violate the university’s standards of decency and humanity.”

Gay rights groups have labeled the broadcast a hate crime and there were demonstrations at the end of the inaugural event for the university’s “Project Civility”, a two-year, campuswide project to teach the importance of civility.  Long in the planning, the campaign will involve panel discussions, lectures, workshops and other events to raise awareness about the importance of respect, compassion and courtesy in everyday interactions.  Particular attention will be paid to the use and abuse of new technology.

The lessons come too late for Ravi, Wei and Clementi, though the message is as relevant to brands as it is to students – if you mis-use social media it can have devastating consequences.

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  1. October 2, 2010 at 1:49 am

    I am extremely sorry for the family of Tyler Clementi and I really can’t believe how even university kids can be so terrible today. I wish Dharun Ravi gets a fair and swift trial for his crimes.

  1. February 14, 2011 at 8:26 am

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